There was a time when small, regional dairies littered the American landscape. Milk is highly perishable, so it needed to be from a highly local source. Like so many other things, dairies have, for the most part, gotten much bigger. We take milk in its always-available cartons for granted. There are some dairies and creameries keeping it a bit small, a bit local. Straus Creamery is one of them. Located by Tomales Bay in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, Straus mainly sells to Northern California stores (although its European-style yogurt and ice cream are both available as far afield as Denver and some parts of Texas).
On a very cold and foggy day last week, I went on a tour of Straus Family Creamery--seeing the cows in their wide open pasture and the yogurt in its vats. Straus is an organic dairy, so anything stronger than an aspirin isn't allowed. How do they keep the cows healthy? By keeping them as stress-free as possible. Their lives include foam beds to relax on in the milking barn.
After meeting the happy cows and touring the creamery where milks, cream, sour cream, yogurt, and ice cream are made, we had a tasting. First up: comparing their unhomogenized whole milk to their homogenized Barista blend.
To me the unhomogenized one had a richer texture, while the homogenized version was a wee bit sweeter, but the great grassy milk flavor was prominent in both. It reminded me of why I often go to the hassle of lugging home the glass bottles Straus uses for its fresh milk products.
Is there a local organic dairy in your area? Let me know about it. I've become a bit obsessed! Want to know more about milk? Here is a quick run-down about what different Milk Labels Mean.